Explosive

  • Mine detectionDolphins, sea lions help Navy detect sea mines, underwater intruders

    For decades, the Pentagon has been training dolphins and sea lions to help detect underwater mines and intruding divers near U.S. military bases and along the paths of U.S. and allied ships in foreign locations. The first dolphin trained in mine detection was Notty in 1960. In San Diego, the U.S. Navy spends roughly $28 million a year to train and maintain about ninety dolphins and fifty California sea lions.In the future, Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) may replace the marine mammals in the mine-detection mission, but for now they share the assignment.

  • ExplosivesThe National Explosives Task Force keeps a watchful eye on IEDs

    The National Explosives Task Force (NETF) is a multi-agency assemblage of bomb technicians, analysts, and professional staff formed in 2011 quickly to analyze and disseminate intelligence related to improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other explosive materials in the United States. It includes personnel from the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The NETF’s main functions include gathering and analyzing intelligence on explosives, integrating the intel into investigations (to disrupt plots, for example), and pushing information out to partners — which include more than 3,100 public safety bomb technicians on more than 400 bomb squads around the country.

  • Explosives detectionLos Alamos leads collaborative effort of explosives detection innovation, education

    The Los Alamos National Laboratory is leading a collaboration of strategic public and private partners focused on the innovations in and education about explosives detection technologies. The Los Alamos Collaboration for Explosives Detection (LACED) site serves as a virtual gateway to world-class expertise and capabilities designed to counter all types of explosives threats, predominantly through enhanced detection capabilities. The site went public online in January and is beginning to attract attention among specialty audiences.

  • LandminesDeadly debris: Northwestern U students report on U.S. landmine legacy

    Despite a 20-year cleanup effort, the explosive remnants of war left behind by the United States after sustained military campaigns around the world continue to kill and maim thousands of people in Cambodia, Iraq, and other countries. Since 1993 the United States has spent $3.2 billion on efforts to clear unexploded ordnance, assist victims, and wipe out aging munitions stockpiles, but civilians are still dying and the “deadly debris” is inflicting incalculable damage on communities, regions, and entire countries.

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  • Butt bombsBuilding better butt bombs: Al Qaeda’s instructions to followers

    Five years after using a “bum bomb” for the first time – on 28 August 2009, against the Saudi deputy interior minister – al Qaeda bomb makers are at it again. Having actively searched for new and better ways to take advantage of privacy (“don’t touch my junk”) considerations which govern airport security checks, one of the organization’s bomb makers goes public. The latest issue of Inspire, the organization’s English-language magazine, contains a detailed 22-page article on how to construct a butt bomb and conceal it in one’s anal cavity. The article alsoadvises would-be suicide bombers on where to sit on the airplane to ensure the most destruction, and also recommends using the hidden bomb for assassination attempts.

  • DetectionThe science of airport bomb detection: chromatography

    By Martin Boland

    As the holidays draw near, many of us will hop on a plane to visit friends and family — or just get away from it all. Some will be subjected to a swab at the airport to test clothes and baggage for explosives. So how does this process work? The answer is chromatography — a branch of separation chemistry — along with mass spectrometry. Although instrumental chromatography is a mature technology (the first instruments were produced just after WWII), new applications frequently pop up. Some are a matter of scale. Pharmaceutical companies that produce monoclonal antibodies (often used in cancer treatments) make use of capture chromatography to purify their products. On an industrial scale these can be tens of centimeters in diameter and meters in length (typical lab scale systems are a few millimeters diameter and 5-30cm long). Other uses can either be in a specific new application, such as detecting cocaine on bank notes using the gas chromatography systems often seen at airports as bomb and drug detectors.

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  • DetectionDogs trained on pseudo-explosives could not reliably identify genuine explosives

    When it comes to teaching dogs how to sniff out explosives, there is nothing quite like the real thing to make sure they are trained right. This is the message from researchers after finding that dogs which are trained with so-called “pseudo-explosives” could not reliably sniff out real explosives (and vice versa).

  • DetectionNew terahertz device could strengthen security

    We are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. Even after all the effort, we still wonder whether these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.

  • DetectionLight frequencies help sniff out deadly materials from a distance

    Spectroscopic chemical sensing, which measures the frequency of light absorbed or scattered from a substance to help determine its molecular identity, can be used to detect traces of biological and chemical agents and residue from explosive materials. New program aims to develop chip-sized, optical frequency combs which accurately identify even tiny traces of dangerous biological and chemical substances several football fields away.

  • DetectionSensor network will track down illegal bomb-making

    Terrorists can manufacture bombs with relative ease, few aids, and easily accessible materials such as synthetic fertilizer. Security forces do not always succeed in preventing the attacks and tracking down illegal workshops in time. Bomb manufacturing, however, leaves its traces. A network of different sensors will detect illicit production of explosives and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Traces on doorknobs, in sewage, or in the air will be detected by the sensors and the data will be fused in a command center.

  • ScanningSecurity flaws found in backscatter X-ray scanners

    A team of researchers has discovered several security vulnerabilities in full-body backscatter X-ray scanners deployed to U.S. airports between 2009 and 2013. Secure 1000 scanners were removed from airports in 2013 due to privacy concerns, and are now being repurposed to jails, courthouses, and other government facilities. “The system’s designers seem to have assumed that attackers would not have access to a Secure 1000 to test and refine their attacks,” said one of the researchers. The researchers, however, were able to purchase a government-surplus machine found on eBay and subject it to laboratory testing.

  • ExplosivesTool helps investigators connect bomb fragments to bomb makers

    Authorities with the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), the Canadian military, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), and law enforcement agencies in the United Kingdom have adopted a crowdsourcing system called DFuze to help agencies in twenty-five countries connect bomb fragments to bomb makers or individuals who could be connected to a specific bomb.The technology allows users to share bomb images and data to assist pending investigations.

  • Aviation securityBackscatter body scanner making a comeback

    Airline passengers have already said bon voyage to the controversial backscatter X-ray security scanners, pulled from U.S. airports in 2013 over concerns about privacy and potential radiation risks. The devices may, however, be reintroduced in the future, in part because they produce superior images of many concealed threats, and Congress still wants to know whether these systems — currently used in prisons, in diamond mines, and by the military — produce safe levels of radiation for screeners and the people they screen.

  • Explosives detectionTiny laser sensor increases bomb detection sensitivity

    New technology under development could soon give bomb-sniffing dogs some serious competition. A team of researchers has found a way dramatically to increase the sensitivity of a light-based plasmon sensor to detect incredibly minute concentrations of explosives. The researchers noted that the sensor could potentially be used to sniff out a hard-to-detect explosive popular among terrorists. The sensor also could be developed into an alarm for unexploded land mines that otherwise are difficult to detect, the researchers said.

  • IEDsThere has been a 70% rise in civilian casualties from IEDs around the world since 2011

    There has been a dramatic rise in civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) over the last three years, new data show. Numbers compiled from 500 English-language media reports show there was a 70 percent rise in the number of civilian casualties globally from IEDs like car bombs and suicide vests last year compared to 2011. In 2011 13,340 civilians were killed and injured by IEDs. 2013 saw this number shoot up to 22,735. In total, there have been over 60,000 deaths and injuries from IEDs in 2011-13, with civilians accounting for 81 percent of these casualties. IEDs were not limited to Iraq and Afghanistan. There were IED incidents in sixty-six different countries and territories in the last three years. Of these countries, eight — including Pakistan, Nigeria, and Thailand — saw over 1,000 civilian casualties of IEDs.